The Vikings' wide receiver position has witnessed definitive upgrades since a group of roster-bubble guys were being counted on as starters in Brad Childress' first season. Now it's become a group of more viable threats.
Brad Childress arrived in Minnesota in 2006 to find a wide receiver corps that was in need of repair.
had been traded to Oakland a year earlier and the training camp "competition" included Travis Taylor, Troy Williamson
, Marcus Robinson and Billy McMullen
. Bethel Johnson
eventually joined the mix.
Three years later, the Vikings have made gradual but serious upgrades at the position. Bernard Berrian
and Bobby Wade
were added through free agency, Sidney Rice
was selected with a second-round pick in 2007 and the explosive Percy Harvin
was the Vikings' first-round selection last April.
Those four would appear to be locks to make the roster, leaving one potential spot for the six remaining receivers on the roster. The most serious contenders in that battle are Jaymar Johnson
, Darius Reynaud
and Glenn Holt
, who was signed as a free agent from Cincinnati last March.
"Potentially, this is a pretty good group," wide receivers coach George Stewart said.
"I had a pretty good group in San Francisco during that run with J.J. (Stokes), Jerry (Rice), T.O. (Terrell Owens), Tai Streets and Kevin Williams. But this group is a pretty good group in terms of older talent with Bernard Berrian and Bobby Wade and young talent with Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin."
The Vikings' strength at receiver is good enough that the team had the luxury of cutting Aundrae Allison only a few days into camp when things didn't work out with him. There was a time when Allison not only would have been kept around but likely would have been counted on to contribute.
As for the battle for the potential last spot — there is always a chance the Vikings could keep six receivers — Johnson would seem to be the favorite. A sixth-round pick in 2008, he was a member of the practice squad last year.
Johnson then spent the offseason working out at the Vikings facility and practicing his punt returns. Johnson is noticeably bigger now and his ability to contribute on punt returns could be the deciding factor in him sticking on the 53-man roster. Reynaud can return kicks, as can Holt, but Harvin is expected to handle that job.
Harvin, however, isn't a slam dunk to return punts and Johnson looks more comfortable in that role at this point.
Steve LaCroix, the Vikings' vice president of sales and marketing and chief marketing officer, said that 53,000 fans attended the 13 days of training camp practices. That is a 50 percent increase from last year when the Vikings spent nearly an extra week in Mankato. "The environment has been the best since I've been here," coach Brad Childress said.
Pro Bowl RB Adrian Peterson is one of the game's best when he's running the ball, but his route running, receiving and pass blocking are all things that needed work. Thus, Peterson spent his offseason focusing on improving those areas. "I've taken a giant step forward," he said of his pass protection skills. "I'm really just focusing on the little things, getting my proper depth and recognizing the coverage that the defense presents better. I'm definitely moving forward and continuing to improve each day."
The Vikings are expected to wear their throwback jerseys for one home game this season, but that date has not yet been announced. Minnesota has worn its throwbacks for the past two seasons.
The Vikings broke camp in Mankato after only two weeks in part because the regular season starts late this year and thus the team could not report until the final days of July. Coach Brad Childress could have taken his players back to Mankato after the first preseason game against Indianapolis but elected against it because freshmen were set to check into the Vikings dorm in the middle of the week.
John David Booty, who is going to be the Vikings' third quarterback this season, has gotten some good experience in camp. Booty took more reps than usual when Tarvaris Jackson missed three days because of a knee injury and he also got additional reps when coach Brad Childress gave Sage Rosenfels a practice off. Booty was a fifth-round pick out of Southern California by the Vikings in 2008. "I thought he did a nice job of taking advantage of those snaps," quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers said. "It showed things that he does well and things that he needed to improve on. He doesn't have the worldliness at this point and time, but he's in a normal stage."
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was among a group of team executives to get a tour of Lucas Oil Stadium before the Vikings played the Colts. That stadium is pretty much the model for what Wilf would like to see built for the Vikings in Minneapolis.
WR Bernard Berrian suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter of the preseason opener against the Colts last Friday and did not return. Berrian also was held out of practice the following Sunday and it's not certain when he will be back. Considering speed is a major part of Berrian's game it would not be surprising if he was kept off the field for a few games.
WR Percy Harvin dressed but did not play against the Colts because of a shoulder injury he suffered two days before in practice. Coach Brad Childress said he was simply being cautious.
Rookie Phil Loadholt continues to get the majority of the snaps with the first team at right tackle and there remains little doubt he will win that job. Loadholt played the first half in the preseason opener at Indianapolis as he got an extended look.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The preseason is what it is. It's like going to prom with your sister, and I imagine that wouldn't be that fun." — Vikings Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, on the obvious drawbacks of playing games that don't count.